Libya’s official government has so far failed to sell oil on its own via an account and middlemen in Dubai, as customers continue to buy crude directly from a state oil firm under the control of a rival government, oil sources said.
Libya’s internationally recognised Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said this month that oil sales would be routed though a Dubai bank account belonging to a new state oil company reporting to his government in the east.
His government wants to get hold of vital oil revenue as it fights the rival government controlling the capital Tripoli, in the west, for power and territory four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.
The United Arab Emirates is one of the biggest political allies of Thinni.
Several oil shipments from the eastern Hariga and Zueitina ports controlled by forces loyal to Thinni have left since his announcement, but oil officials said all were paid for via the established payment routes in Tripoli.
“We’re getting our orders still from Tripoli,” said an official in an eastern state oil firm.
A spokesman for Thinni’s government declined to comment.
An oil insider said Thinni’s new oil company had also put out feelers to prospective buyers via middlemen and firms in Dubai and the Gulf region but legal concerns over ownership of the oil, given the duelling governments, had prevented any deal.
State oil firm NOC Tripoli, loyal to the Tripoli government, also said the official government, which works out of hotels in a small eastern city, was courting middlemen in Dubai.
It said on its website that middlemen who said they represented Libya had met the partners in Libya’s Ras Lanuf refinery “with the goal to negotiate the current contract relations”.
While it did not identify the partners, Dubai-based al-Ghurair Group is the only partner the refinery has. Via a subsidiary, it owns half of Ras Lanuf, Libya’s biggest.
A spokeswoman for Dubai-based Ghurair Investment declined to respond to requests for information.
Oil officials say a Ghurair subsidiary called Trasta Energy signed a deal in the Gaddafi-era to invest $2 billion to upgrade the 220,000 barrels refinery but a separate legal case with NOC over crude supplies has held back the payment.
In a strongly worded statement, NOC Tripoli warned that the legal conflict with Ghurair rested with an international court which has been dealing with it for years, adding that talks through middlemen were “outside the legitimacy”.
The refinery based in the east in an area controlled by forces loyal to Thinni is currently not working.